I love a good story, and one of the things I look forward to most when rummaging through my weekly digest on a Sunday afternoon is the latest literary endeavour of Robin, of A Lot Of Wind. The blog is as honest as it is compelling, with no real genre to label it with. There’re lots of stories – all fabulously well-written; as many photography galleries – equally as fabulous; and various travel blurbs on many of Spain’s most admired cities and regions.
Robin, who hails from a distinctly less sunnier Dublin, now lives in and writes about Tarifa – Spain and indeed Europe’s southernmost point – which I suppose is how the blog got its name, given the small surfing town’s ocean exposed setting. Today’s inquisition probes into just what led Robin to be where he is today, thoughts on ‘expat experts’ and what, other than a lot of wind, is so lovely about Tarifa.
Let’s get started.
Name: Robin Graham
Occupation: A one word question that begets a long meandering answer – let’s just say writer.
Time in Spain: A few months short of three years – I came in August 2010.
About Blog: Well, it isn’t really a travel blog although I’ve had a good bit of support from that community. I don’t like the term ‘expat blog’. I’ll be honest with you – I don’t think much of the term ‘blog’. I just try to hold myself to a weekly deadline and to get something down that feels like I’ve made an effort. That I’ve written some kind of story. It probably doesn’t get the kind of traffic that someone with commercial targets would be looking for, but people react well to it, and tend to stick around.
1. Complete this sentence:
“Spain is a ROUGH and READY sort of country, filled with NOISE, BEAUTY and DRAMA. However, there are too many EXPAT EXPERTS WHO THINK THEY HAVE SPAIN AND THE SPANISH FIGURED OUT and not enough HUMILITY OR OPTIMISM.
2. Why did you move to Spain? Why Tarifa?
Two different answers – Spain because I already had a (fairly tenuous) connection with the place, having briefly lived here as a child and experienced heat and Madrid life and delicious exotic food and all the rest of it. A love for the country never left me. Later, I decided to implement my mid-life crisis on the early side, at around the age of 38, and on a holiday to Granada we fell in love with it and decided to make the move and see what happened.
Tarifa – because my partner found work in Gibraltar and we needed to be within commutable distance of it. Of the many options, we disliked most. We found Tarifa using Google Earth, believe it or not, and its key role in Spain’s Arab history as well as its natural beauty appealed. It isn’t that close to Gibraltar but it was the nearest place that appealed to us so strongly.
3. What is one of Tarifa’s best kept secrets?
An Italian community is sufficiently well established here that I can pick up good Burata mozzarella cheese around the corner. I couldn’t find that when I lived in Dublin.
4. How would you describe the culture there? What type of people tend to thrive, and what type don’t do as well?
No pat answer to this – Tarifa is a mixture. Up till around 30 years ago it was a genuinely rural, fairly poor and deeply andaluz place. Still is deeply andaluz if you ask me but more recently there has been an influx of kite surf enthusiasts and, at least on the surface, it has become fairly cosmopolitan and “surfy”. I’ll reserve judgement on what type of person might thrive here as I’m engaged in the effort myself.
5. What have been (briefly) the best three experiences you’ve had since moving here?
Impossible, Josh! There’s a giant sand dune a little up the coast. I remember sitting up on it in the middle of the night with K. No wind, no sound. Starry sky, African coast.
We went to a cheese tasting one time because we’d been invited. It was the first invitation we’d had, and we socialized that night in Spanish for the first time.
Each time we go back to Granada we feel more embedded in Spain. Our visits there are a yardstick for us.
6. What has been the worst? And how could it have been avoided?
Some days, especially in the first year but also in the second and even the third, you can feel lonely and isolated. You speak reasonable Spanish but you still miss loads, especially in Andalucia. I suppose it could be avoided by sticking to expat friends but we don’t want that, so you just plough ahead.
7. How much Spanish could you speak before you moved to Spain? What’s the best way to learn?
I spoke very rudimentary, greetings level Spanish. I don’t know the best way to learn. By really, really wanting to learn, probably. We are upper intermediate now, maybe lower advanced on a good day, working on fluency.
8. Money is a thorny issue for any would-be expat. Do you have any tips on working, saving, banking etc?
In short, no.
9. Finally, what’s the best photo you’ve ever taken in Spain? Tell us about it!
Impossible! There’s one I took down on the beach that people seem to like. Black and white, a life guard tower and a summer sky. Very simple. But I take a lot of photos (I’m also a photographer) so picking one really is impossible.